The UCSB men’s basketball team hosted a party for three on Thursday afternoon at the Honda Center.
Riding 10 three-pointers on the day at 47 percent shooting from behind the arc, the Gauchos beat University of the Pacific 72-52 in first round action of the Big West Conference tournament. With the win, No. 3 UCSB moves on to the second round of the tourney to play Cal Poly on Friday at 9 p.m.
“We shot the ball well, we competed,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We turned a 14-point lead into a 25 point lead and after that it was smooth sailing.”
UCSB’s 14-point lead at halftime was helped in large part by its play off the bench. Sophomore guard Kyle Boswell and sophomore forward Keegan Hornbuckle each went 3-of-3 from the field in the first half, combining for 17 of the Gauchos’ 43 points through the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought Boswell and Keegan were the difference for us in the first half,” Williams said. “Boswell with shooting, Keegan just all around play – they played exceptionally well.”
The offensive support from the Gaucho bench was a welcome replacement for the void left by senior guard Orlando Johnson’s two-point effort in the first half. Johnson, who was recently named to the All-Big West Conference first team, shot just 1-for-3 through the first 20 minutes of play.
The long-range shooting of Boswell, combined with two three-pointers from senior guard James Nunnally, shocked the Pacific defense out of its zone coverage and into a man-to-man set entering the second period.
“Guys came in hitting shots [in the first half] and it got them out of the zone,” Johnson said. “They came out man-to-man and I felt more comfortable.”
Johnson awoke to the man-to-man pressure at the start of the second half by scoring 12 of Santa Barbara’s first 15 points, highlighted by a stadium-rattling windmill jam on a solo fast break.
“It comes natural to me,” Johnson joked about the dunk. “That was just one of those times where I was feeling pretty good.”
The Gauchos went on runs of 8-0 and 16-6 during the second period, effectively smothering any comeback opportunities for Pacific.
If UCSB is able to overcome the Mustangs, they will advance to Saturday night’s Big West Tournament championship game at 7 p.m. Tip-off for tonight’s game is set for 9 p.m. at the Honda Center in Anaheim.